CARLA A. ROBERTSON
Mending seams and broken dreams
From the Texas Woman University
Women Who Lead Series
Anna Ryan, Writer/editor
For Texas Woman’s alumna Carla Robertson (BS ‘85), fashion has always been a do-it-yourself endeavor. At the age of six, Robertson learned how to sew from her mother. By the time she was 12, she was making all of her own clothes, and at 16, she began sewing custom creations for private clients.
After receiving her associate’s degree from El Centro College and interning as a sample cutter for a local manufacturer, she knew a career in clothing production would not provide the creative freedom and variety she craved. For Robertson, “variety meant learning to be an entrepreneur in the field,” so she decided her next step would be to pursue her bachelor’s degree in costume and textile design (now fashion design) at TWU.
During her time at TWU, Robertson forged new friendships, explored new opportunities and created a new wardrobe. “Every Friday, [my roommate and I] walked down University Drive to what was then M.E. Moses and purchased fabric to make new outfits to wear the next week,” she recalled.
She participated in her first fashion show and studied under designer-in-residence Les Wilk, “King of the drop-dead dress” and renowned designer of Miss Texas and Miss America pageant gowns during the 1970s and ‘80s. She also became a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority at TWU, where she made outfits for sorority step shows and participated in group community service projects.
After graduating from TWU in 1985, Robertson returned to her hometown of Dallas and continued to design for private clients, creating custom wedding gowns, costumes and women’s wear for her solo business venture, C. Adele Creations, which still thrives today.
Sewing for Life
In 1999, Robertson was inspired by her pastor, who encouraged his congregation to pass on their unique talents by teaching the next generation. It was then the idea for Robertson’s “Sewing for Life” program was born, and she began teaching group and individual sewing classes to children in her community and at the SALT Educational Co-op, a Christian homeschooling organization. She also began her collaboration with Abi Ferrin’s Fashion+Freedom+Purpose Project, where she served as a vocational trainer for women coming out of trafficking and domestic violence situations.
As part of her outreach, Robertson traveled to Kenya, Haiti and Papua New Guinea to educate and encourage instructors and students as they develop their own sewing skills and businesses.
Dallas Designing Dreams
In 2006, one of Robertson’s first sewing students, Arthur Porter, came up with the idea for Dallas Designing Dreams, a non-profit that “nurtures the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of individuals with ‘dreams or broken dreams’” by providing access to equipment, software, information and encouragement to help them begin sewing, designing or even launching their own businesses. As a collaborator and executive board member, Robertson provides the non-profit’s students with programming, software and vocational education and also serves as a special event and project planner. Projects currently underway include a Southwest Airlines Repurpose with Purpose Partnership, in which airline seats are “up-cycled” and made into handbags, and the recent launch of Dallas Designing Dreams as an Airbnb Experience location.
When asked about her proudest moments among her many, many achievements, Robertson expresses gratitude and humility. She is grateful for the opportunity “to impact women here and on the other side of the world,” and the ability “to touch lives on a daily basis. To know that God has given everyone innate talents, dreams and abilities, helping them tap into that is my greatest joy.” Carla Robertson (BS '85):